This week in Jerusalem: Youthful city

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

east Jerusalem 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
east Jerusalem 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Youthful city
Has the municipality’s investment in the city’s cultural life paid off? Young people and families from the non-haredi sector are remaining in or returning to live in Jerusalem, according to the municipality’s Midgam institute for logistics and planning. The institute found in the past five years there has been a 35 percent increase in the number of young people in the secular and national-religious community, and while there is still negative migration overall, it is decreasing. In the city center, the percentage of residents aged 20 to 34 has grown from 35% to 50%.
Another survey conducted by the New Spirit organization shows that university students view Jerusalem as an attractive city to study in. Asked what attracted them to Jerusalem, many cited the new communities of young people that have been created in veteran neighborhoods such as the Katamonim, Kiryat Hayovel, Givat Mordechai and Kiryat Menahem. More detailed findings will be presented at the Jerusalem Youth Conference that will take place next Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
Against the wall
The new plan for the Western Wall plaza has just been submitted to the district planning and construction committee at the Interior Ministry after obtaining the approval of the local committee. However, the extensive project, which will include a three-story main building and a tunnel to enable direct access to the prayer area, is far from being on the way to implementation.
A large number of objections have already been voiced to the committee (more than 40 according to the latest ministry information), and sources estimate that the number will continue to increase. One of the opponents to the plan is Deputy Mayor Pepe Allalu (Meretz), who voted against it at the local committee. He fears it would stir up anger and harsh reactions from the Muslim and Christian leadership in the city and worldwide. Allalu says this area is so sensitive that the position of the other faiths and of UNESCO should be taken into consideration before any suggestions for change are made.
The unkindest cut
The process of merging Bikur Cholim Hospital with Shaare Zedek Medical Center is continuing, but it doesn’t ensure continued employment for all the staff of Bikur Cholim. The management of Shaare Zedek has already announced that about 80 percent of the staff – from doctors, surgeons to nurses to administration and maintenance employees – will be hired by Shaare Zedek at the end of the process. According to the agreement between Bikur Cholim and Shaare Zedek, some of the departments will shut down, others will be outpatient departments, and the rest will serve as a downtown facility for emergency cases. What remains to be seen is how many of the Bikur Cholim employees will be sent home.
End of an era?
Uri Amedi, the legendary director of the Lev Ha’ir local council, is apparently leaving his position. After three decades as one of the leading figures in community center and local community council circles, Amedi, who managed to bring about one of the best renovation plans during one of the city’s most terrible periods of terrorist attacks, has lost one battle. Facing a major crisis on the financial front, Amedi, who realized he would be forced to fire most of his employees, has chosen to leave before having to send them letters of dismissal. This changing of the guard will take place at an important time for the neighborhood, since the recent elections there will bring the council a new board.
Although Amedi is widely respected and valued, there has been some criticism about some of his projects over the years. The criticism was not aimed at the projects themselves – such as the youth center, the separation of the Market Merchants’ Association from the Lev Ha’ir council, the cultural events at Mahaneh Yehuda and the inclusion of Musrara in Lev Ha’ir – but at the toll these projects had on the Lev Ha’ir residents. And the the young residents have recently complained that there was too much emphasis on large projects and too little on services for the local community. The need to fire dedicated employees was the final straw.
It is not clear when the resignation will take place, but sources at Safra Square, where Amedi has many supporters, as well as some opponents, indicate that it will probably coincide with the installation of the new board, within a few weeks.
Take the bus
As of next week, Egged will offer improved bus service from Mevaseret Zion and Givat Ze’ev to Jerusalem. Fifty-one new buses will enable increased frequency and routes that Egged and the Transportation Ministry claim are better adapted to the passengers’ needs.
This is the latest phase in a wide-ranging project by the ministry and the three municipalities to reduce the use of private cars and encourage the use of public transportation. The present eight bus lines that serve Mevaseret will change part of their routes, and a new line – No. 59 – will be added. Bus No. 159 from Mevaseret to Mahaneh Yehuda will be withdrawn. Instead, passengers will have to take the light rail from the stop at the Jerusalem International Convention Center to get to the market.
In Givat Ze’ev, new lines will be introduced, running more frequently and serving various neighborhoods in Jerusalem.For more details, call *8787.Gilbert and Sullivan are back
With a cast of 45 and an orchestra of 15, Encore! – The Educational Theatre Company presents Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera The Gondoliers. This will be the troupe’s 11th annual production of an opera by one of Britain’s most famous duos, whose theatrical masterpieces are performed worldwide.
The Gondoliers is a delightful satire on “republican” governments which, according to the organizers, has long been a favorite of the British royal family. The opera is about the young bride of the heir to the throne of Barataria, who arrives in Venice to join her husband. It turns out, however, that he cannot be identified, since he was entrusted to the care of a drunken gondolier who mixed up the prince with his own son. To complicate matters, the king of Barataria has just been killed. The two young gondoliers must now jointly rule the kingdom until the prince’s nurse can be brought in to determine which is the rightful king.
When the young queen arrives to claim her husband, she finds that the two gondoliers have recently married local girls. And it turns out that she herself is in love with another man.
The opera is directed by Robert Binder, with musical direction by Paul Salter, choreography by Judy Brown and set design by Roxane Goodkin-Levy. Featured in the company are Encore! veterans Aviella Trapido, Daniel Forst and Claire Greenfeld, along with newcomers Jay Shir, Michael Sacofsky, Maya Cohen, Maria Luibman and Rafi Apfel.
Performances from December 26 to January 1 at the Hirsch Theater, Beit Shmuel. In English with Hebrew surtitles. Tickets at the Hirsch Theater box office. Tel: 620-3463.